Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

Czechoslovak Dissidents

In 1991, the IISH received the archives of the Stichting Informatie for Charta ’77 (Foundation Information on Charta ’77) from mr Jef Helmer. At the end of 2010, Helmer also donated his personal papers.
In the 1970s Helmer had been active in KEN, the United Communist Movement. As a member of KEN, he supported the occupiers of the Iranian embassy in The Hague, and via “Think of Prague 68” he also supported the Czech dissidents. After Helmer left KEN, he became president of the Foundation Information on Charta ’77, founded in 1980. As president, in the early 1980s he travelled several times to Prague, until he was refused a visa. He encouraged others such as Maarten van Traa, the international secretary of the Dutch Labour Party, to visit Prague to establish contacts with dissidents.

Dissidents gathering in Bohemia, 1982Czech dissidents gathering somewhere in Bohemia, 1982; call no BG A64/838; photo Jef Helmer

The archives contain correspondence with the Dutch peace organizations Interkerkelijk Vredesberaad and Pax Christi, as well as with dissidents, and manuscripts and documents on solidarity events and the award of the Erasmus prize 1986 to Havel. In addition to the materials donated by Helmer, it also contains many photos of Havel and other dissidents, of meetings at Havel’s home in the countryside, and the John Lennon Wall in Prague. Very special is also a samizdat publication, issued some months after the murder of John Lennon. This publication describes Havel’s plays and to the rock band, The Plastic People of the Universe, started in 1968 by Milan Hlavsa and Ivan Jirous.

When the Czech president Václav Havel (who until the Velvet Revolution had been an important dissident) died in December 2011, the IISH arranged an exhibit of Helmer’s donated materials.

Jef Helmers personal papers Stichting Informatie on Charta ’77 archives

21 May 2012